Prior to the Lakers’ Friday matchup against the Celtics, veteran Boston center Enes Kanter called out LeBron James on Twitter for his and Nike’s continued business in China, and announced that he would be wearing shoes criticizing the Lakers star.
The sneakers — which depict, among other things, James with bags of money behind him, kneeling and being crowned by what appears to be a caricature of Chinese president Xi Jinping — were Kanter’s latest attempt this season at raising awareness of accused human rights abuses in China against the ethnic minority Uighur Muslims that have been declared a genocide by the U.S. State Department, and Nike’s longtime ties to the country.
Money over Morals for the “King”— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) November 18, 2021
Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice
They really do “shut up & dribble” when Big Boss says so
Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research? pic.twitter.com/YUA8rGYeoZ
Kanter, who wears a Nike jersey every game he plays in and has multiple current and former teammates with sneaker business-related ties to China, called out James specifically in a likely reference to James’ much-criticized response to Daryl Morey’s “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” tweet that led to the Lakers and their families being trapped in their hotels during a preseason trip to China in 2019.
After the game, James was asked if he had any response to Kanter’s critique, and while he said “no,” he also talked for a little less than a minute about why he wouldn’t be specifically rebutting the substance of Kanter’s call-out.
“I think if you know me, I don’t really give too many people my energy. And he’s definitely not someone I will give my energy to. Trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself,” James said. “He’s always kind of had a word or two to say in my direction, and as men, really, if you had an issue with somebody you’d really come up to them. And he had his opportunity tonight. I saw him in the hallway and he walked right by me.”
James signed a lifetime deal with Nike in 2015 that is reportedly worth approximately $1 billion.
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